The magic that is a souffle eluded me and my sweet tooth for longer than I'd care to admit. It just seemed too complicated, too stressful, too sophisticated for a home cook/baker/dishwasher like me — that is, until my husband told me that he'd successfully made a lobster souffle before he was old enough to drive. Oh, is that so? Challenge accepted.
I did my research. I perused online videos, googled "how to make the perfect souffle" (which also renders results for "how to make the perfect Southern fried chicken" and "how to make the perfect sock bun," and then I was all sorts of hungry and insecure about my own bun-making skills, which are sincerely lacking) and made sure I had the appropriate utensils and ingredients in exact measurements and ratios. And then, I made my very first souffle. It was a double chocolate souffle, brimming with sweetness and dusted angelically with powdered sugar — and it was, to my surprise, a success. In my kitchen, wherein I've burned holes in my strainers, had butter explode in my face and spilled flour all over the floor on too many occasions to count, this was no small feat. The souffle, I soon discovered, was nothing to fear.
Several souffles later, I've learned that not only are they perfectly achievable in a home kitchen by anyone who can wield a whisk, but they're not as fussy as you might think. I've learned what works and what doesn't to make a better, more successful souffle each and every time — like how mini souffles are less likely to fall in on themselves, how the eggs work best at room temperature and how cream of tartar will really help those egg whites stay thick — and I've used those lessons to create what is easily my favorite souffle recipe. These little lemon souffles are equally tart and sweet and whipped to pillowy, puffy perfection. With a faint dusting of powdered sugar on top and a sweet berry sauce on the side, they're also pretty easy on the eyes (and of course, the taste buds). And they make any home cook, whether of legal driving age or not, look like a pro.
Serving size 4
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously coat the bottom and sides of four 1/2-cup ramekins with softened butter. Coat the bottom and sides with sugar, tapping out excess. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Bring a large saucepan halfway filled with water to a simmer. Separate the eggs and set the egg whites aside.
In a large heatproof bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and flour until pale yellow and frothy — about five minutes. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk the mixture constantly until very thick — about five minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot and whisk the mixture on medium speed until cooled — about five to seven minutes. Pour the batter into a medium bowl and set aside.
Clean the mixer bowl and add the egg whites, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cream of tartar. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the pot and whisk on low speed until frothy, gradually increasing speed to medium until the mixture becomes meringue-like and holds soft peaks — about five minutes. Be careful not to overbeat.
Whisk 1/3 of the meringue mixture into the lemon batter. Slowly fold in the remaining meringue mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins all the way to the top — smooth the tops with the back of the spoon. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until slightly golden and puffed.
Meanwhile, make the berry sauce: In a blender, puree the thawed berries and lemon juice until smooth. Remove the souffles from the oven and dust with the powdered sugar. Serve immediately with the berry sauce on the side.
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